This week’s book giveaway is The Anatomy of Nature: Geology and American Landscape Painting, 1825-1875 by Rebecca Bedell. This beautifully illustrated book has won several awards, including the 2002 New York Book Show Award.
Geology was in vogue in nineteenth-century America. People crowded lecture halls to hear geologists speak, and parlor mineral cabinets signaled social respectability and intellectual engagement. This was also the heyday of the Hudson River School, and many prominent landscape painters avidly studied geology. Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Frederic Church, John F. Kensett, William Stanley Haseltine, Thomas Moran, and other artists read scientific texts, participated in geological surveys, and carried rock hammers into the field to collect fossils and mineral specimens. As they crafted their paintings, these artists drew on their geological knowledge to shape new vocabularies of landscape elements resonant with moral, spiritual, and intellectual ideas.
Rebecca Bedell contributes to current debates about the relationship among art, science, and religion by exploring this phenomenon. She shows that at a time when many geologists sought to disentangle their science from religion, American artists generally sidestepped the era’s more materialist science, particularly Darwinism. They favored a conservative, Christianized geology that promoted scientific study as a way to understand God. Their art was both shaped by and sought to preserve this threatened version of the science. And, through their art, they advanced consequential social developments, including westward expansion, scenic tourism, the emergence of a therapeutic culture, and the creation of a coherent and cohesive national identity.
This major study of the Hudson River School offers an unprecedented account of the role of geology in nineteenth-century landscape painting. It yields fresh insights into some of the most influential works of American art and enriches our understanding of the relationship between art and nature, and between science and religion, in the nineteenth century.
“In this wide ranging book, Rebecca Bedell looks beyond the usual labels . . . to find an unexpected continuity in 19th century American landscape painting: its obsession with the once fashionable science of geology. In lucid prose free of academic jargon, Bedell surveys the intersection of art, tourism and geology in the work of such painters as Thomas Cole, John Kensett and Thomas Moran.”—New York Times Book Review
“[A] gracefully written and handsomely crafted book.”—Choice
The random draw for this book with be Friday 8/12 at 11 am EST. Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!